The Suns are feeling a tad desperate.
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Not only was this the first time this season that the Suns have lost three straight times, but they are in the position of being eliminated by the world champion Spurs. Adding insult to injury, no team in the history of the NBA has recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
So while San Antonio is the first team in the 2008 NBA Playoffs to take a 3-0 advantage, where does this leave Phoenix? Let’s face it: in dire straits.
While most have written off the Suns, there is still one game left to play. Although all of the momentum in our solar system is behind San Antonio, the truth remains that there is still a shred of hope.
The concept of hope is interesting in and of itself. One of my favorite movies of all-time, Shawshank Redemption, addresses its value.
Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Duphrane, convinces Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, to follow him down to Mexico by citing hope. Andy says in a letter that to Red that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things,” and that it can move people to accomplish great things. And great things, however unlikely, can still occur in this series. But the Suns have to believe it.
Cynics call it delusion, while sages call it faith. But all one has to do is look back at history to know that the impossible can happen.
Take the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. That team was finished, but it came back to defeat the most dominant hockey team on the planet. Or how about in 1993, when the Buffalo Bills overcame a 32-point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers in an NFL playoff game. And lastly, there was that time when the Red Sox reversed the curse.
As a New Yorker, I remember this oh so vividly. The Yankees were leading the series 3-0, while Boston was trailing New York 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. To make matters worse, they were facing the most dominant closer to ever play the game in Mariano Rivera. That game was over. The series was over. But it wasn’t.
From desperation springs ingenuity.
Just an RBI single by Bill Mueller and a ”Big Papi” 2-run homer later and the Red Sox got a trip back to Boston. But more importantly, they left the Yankees shocked and with a feeling of remorse about not closing out the series. It stunned the Yanks and they began to play like a team that was not trying to win, but a team trying not to lose.
This is the only possible scenario that could work for the Suns. The Spurs are the Suns’ Yankees. They are dominant, disciplined, seemingly unbeatable and they always seem to catch a break when they need it the most. Like Boston fans once did, Suns fans believe that their team is cursed against them. And they need something catastrophic to occur in order to snap that belief.
Well, this could be the opportunity. If the Suns pull out a dramatic win in Game 4 and go up early on the Spurs in Game 5, even the steely-nerved Spurs might become a bit rattled, and then they will start playing not to lose.
It has always been said that there is nothing more dangerous than someone backed into a corner. And no one more than Nash.
“We just need to win one game to show some pride,” said the two-time MVP about Sunday’s contest. “We need to go out here and win a game to stay alive.
“You never know what will happen, so you can’t lie down. We just have to go out there and worry about Game 4, try to have a good performance and feel better about ourselves. It’s not a good feeling we have right now and that should be some good motivation for Sunday.”
The key for the Suns has always been their free-wheeling style and ability to play with reckless abandon. The Suns teams of the past have always been popular because they have played like they have nothing to lose.
But in this series, they have abandoned that attitude, and have played a little tight, like they do have something to lose. They are playing like a team that is afraid of not living up to its expectations.
Now with those expectations on hold, maybe the Suns can forget about all of that and find that signature swagger. We can only hope…